The Great Plains of the United States was the setting for some of the earliest research in North America into patterns and changes in the character of late Pleistocene environments and their effects on contemporary human populations. Many localities in the region have well-stratified records of terminal Pleistocene and early Holocene human (Paleoindian) activity and past environments. These have proven important in debates over the character of the Younger Dryas Chronozone (YDC; 11,000-10,000 14C BP; 12,900-11,700 cal BP) in the continental interior. This paper reviews the lithostratigraphic record of the YDC on the Central and Southern Great Plains and summarizes paleobiological records (largely isotopic). The goal is to determine if there is any uniformity in the timing, character, direction and/or magnitude of changes in depositional environments or broader geomorphic systems before, during or after the YDC in order to address the question of the character of environments through this time. The stratigraphic records of the late Pleistocene to early Holocene transition, and in particular, the stratigraphic records of the YDC vary through time and space. The data clearly show that a host of geomorphic processes produced the terminal Pleistocene and early Holocene stratigraphic records of the Great Plains. Moreover, the YDC is not necessarily manifest as a distinct lithostratigraphic or biostratigraphic entity in these different types of deposits and soils. The various geomorphic systems of the Great Plains did not behave synchronously in response to any common climate driver. These stratigraphic records reflect local environmental conditions and probably a complex response to the reorganization of mid-latitude climates in the terminal Pleistocene and early Holocene.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth-Surface Processes